Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Act
Minnesota’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“DTP”) creates a private right of action for a person who is injured by a deceptive trade practice. Deceptive Trade Practice is defined as:
- passes off goods or services as those of another,
- causes likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding as to the source, sponsorship, approval, or certification of goods or services,
- causes likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding as to affiliation, connection, or association with, or certification by another,
- uses deceptive representations or designations of geographic origin in connection with goods or services,
- represents that goods or services have sponsorship, approval, characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits, or quantities that they do not have or that a person has sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation, or connection that the person does not have,
- represents that goods are original or new if they are deteriorated, altered, reconditioned, reclaimed, used, or second-hand,
- represents that good or services are of a particular standard, quality, or grade, or that goods are of a particular style or model, if they are of another,
- disparages the goods, services, or business of another by false or misleading representation of fact,
- advertises goods or services with intent not to sell them as advertised,
- advertises goods and services with intent not to supply reasonably public demand unless the advertisement discloses a limitation of quantity,
- makes false or misleading statements of fact concerning the reasons for, existence of, or amounts of prices reductions,
- in attempting to collect delinquent accounts, implies or suggests that healthcare services will be withheld in an emergency situation or
- engages in any other conduct that similarly creates a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding.
Any party asserting a claim under the DTPA does not need to prove competition between the parties or any confusion or misunderstanding.
Any person “likely to be damaged by a deceptive trade practice of another” can bring a claim under the DTPA. Minn. Stat. § 325D.45, subd. 1. Unlike the Federal Lanham Act, the DTPA allows consumers to directly bring suits against businesses for misleading trade practices.
For a plaintiff to be successful under the DTPA, he or she must prove that 1) the defendant made false or misleading statements in commercial advertising, 2) those statements actually deceived, or have a tendency to deceive a substantial segment of their audience, 3) such deception is likely to influence buying decisions, 4) the plaintiffs have been or are likely to be injured as a direct result of those activities. I-Systems, Inc. v. Softwares, Inc., 2004 WL 742082 (D. Minn. March 29, 2004).
A plaintiff is not allowed to recover monetary damages under the DTPA, so, what damages are available to a plaintiff? First the DTPA provides for injunctive relief, and Minnesota courts have stated that injunctive relief is the sole remedy for any DTPA violation. If a request for an injunction is brought under the DTPA the court must issue and injunction of 1) the prerequisites for the remedy have been demonstrated and 2) the injunction will fulfill the legislative purpose behind the statutes enactment.
Attorney’s Fees and Costs
Even though a plaintiff cannot recover damages under the DTPA, the DTPA does provide for Attorney’s fees and costs to a prevailing party. Under the statute, a “court may award attorney’s fees to the prevailing party if (1) the party complaining of a deceptive trade practice has brought an action knowing it to be groundless, or (2) the party charged with a deceptive trade practice has willfully engaged in the trade practice knowing it to be deceptive. Minn. Stat. § 325d.45. As always, any award of fees and costs is discretionary to the court.